Sunshine Stars of Akure and their repeated history of Referee Violence in recent years
Sunshine Stars’ supporters have a documented history of unruly behaviour towards officials, this is the fourth consecutive seasons an official will be battered by the Owena Waves fans at the Akure Township Stadium.
The battering of referee Damian Akure and his assistants Emmanuel Apine and Lewis Gwantana that officiated their goalless draw against Kano Pillars in Sundays Nigeria Professional Football League matchday 8 wasn’t the first, its just one of the many ugly cases that had happened at the Akure Township Stadium.
If you recall, the Owena Waves were banned for one year in 2014-2015 season following the unruly conduct of their fans in a match against Lobi Stars of Markurdi in Akure.
In the game, Sunshine Stars supporters invaded the pitch; attacked match officials because the Makurdi based outfit was leading by a lone goal in the fierce encounter that saw play halted in the 77th minute.
That year they played their remaining home game in Lagos and banned for a year.
The ban was overturned at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season but again on three different occasions, they repeated the same offense.
In March 2016, some of their fans disrupted the live broadcast coverage of their matchday 9 encounter with Shooting Stars Sports Club after which they were fined and a suspended two points deduction for the hindrance of broadcast towards the end of the match.
Also, the club was fined for not controlling their Supporters from harassing and assaulting a visiting club’s official while another fine of N750, 000 was levied on the Akure-based club for failure to ensure adequate security and ALLOWING access to unauthorized persons to all restricted areas.
In the same season, a total fine of N2.7 million was imposed on Sunshine Stars for various breaches of the rules including failure to provide adequate security, assault on match officials, throwing of object into the field of play, delaying the start of the second half and throwing of object at an official of Heartland FC.
The breaches were committed in the course of their Match Day 33 fixture against Heartland at the Akure Township Stadium.
In addition to the fine, Sunshine Stars served the one match behind closed door which was earlier imposed as a suspended punishment for similar breaches on Match Day 17 fixture against Warri Wolves in 2016.
As if that was not enough in the 2016-17 season they were also involved in another ugly incident and this time banished to Otunba Dipo Dina Stadium in Ijebu Ode.
The decision to sanction Sunshine Stars was as a result of the unruly behaviour of their players, officials and fans in their 2-1 home loss to Plateau United in a matchday 23 Nigeria Professional Football League game in Akure, despite the game being played behind closed doors as a result of a previous sanction.
Sunshine Stars home games in Ijebu Ode were played behind closed doors until the LMC was satisfied that the club can guarantee security at their games and also control the unruly supporters allowing them to play the 2017=18 in front of their fans.
After four games at home, Referee Damian Akure and his assistants Emmanuel Apine and Lewis Gwantana were allegedly attacked after full-time by Akure fans unhappy with the match officials’ performance in the match.
As at the time of this article the LMC has said nothing about the incident, although, Sunshine Stars media officer, Chris Okunnuwa, however, debunked the allegation, stating an object thrown from the stands by a fan hit the affected official in the face.
“Honestly the referees were not attacked or assaulted physically, there was no way that would have happened due to the heavy security presence on ground at the stadium.
“I can confirm a water object was thrown from the crowd towards the officials on their way to the dressing room after the game and that could have caught the injured official. I know the club won’t shy away from taken responsibility for this.
“It’s a shame things happened the way it did but in truth the referees were not assaulted save for the object thrown by a spectator in the crowd and the last time I checked, serious efforts were already on to fish out the perpetrator and bring him to book.
“I am saying this with all level of assurance and certainty no one will attack referee(s) this season in Akure with the measures on the ground and the fans education.”
But a top official of Kano Pillars who spoke confirmed the incident and called for stiff sanctions against their hosts.
“The action of the fans was barbaric and I think it is time the LMC should do something to wipe out this devilish behaviour of some of the fans,” the official told CSN.
“To attack match officials because your team didn’t win at home is not ideal. We don’t want violence in the game and only stiff punishment can stop the fans from this violent act.”
The hammer of the League Management Company could fall on Sunshine Stars yet again after an ugly incident that happened at the Akure Township Stadium on Sunday.
By: Olaleye Idowu